FAA Bill Heads to Senate, But Concerns Remain

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The House of Representatives has passed the FAA Reauthorization bill with a number of protections for consumers, such as a ban on being involuntarily bumped after boarding. A number of new regulations for travel agents, however, remain.

"On the whole we believe the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4) meets its goals to improve air travel safety and the flying experience for consumers, including provisions to prohibit in-flight voice communications and to add a seat for independent travel distributors on DOT's Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protection,” Eben Peck, EVP of advocacy at the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), tells Travel Agent. “However, we remain concerned about certain provisions in the bill and in its Senate counterpart and plan to work with our members, allied groups and policymakers to address these issues before the current authorization expires on September 30, including during our upcoming Legislative Day on May 7-8."

The House bill maintained many key provisions about which ASTA had previously expressed concern. These include a provision to effectively overturn the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2012 full-fare advertising rule, which would allow airlines to advertise a lower base airfare, minus taxes and ancillary fees.

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The bill also contains a number of new regulations for travel agencies, including customer service standards that would require agents to provide prompt refunds; hold reservations at a quoted fare without payment, or cancel without penalty, for 24 hours; disclose cancellation policies, seating configurations and lavatory availability; notify customers in a timely manner of itinerary changes. The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) had argued that, in many instances, travel agents and other ticket sellers do not have access to information from the airlines necessary to abide by these new regulations.

With the bill passed in the House, eyes now turn to the Senate, which passed its own version of the bill in the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in June, according to Bloomberg. Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) told Bloomberg that the Senate would like to get the bill to the President’s desk before the August recess.

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